Catholic Family Vignettes

A collage of literary snapshots from the life of a large traditional Catholic family


February 2008

Every fire starts with a spark…

Are you ready to pursue a healthier lifestyle? Check out this website:


An outstanding resource (entirely free as well) to help track healthy choices. The WoW moms have inspired me…I’ll keep you posted.

My photographer…

If you ever see a photo on this blog that is startling in its beauty, rest assured I DIDN’T TAKE IT.

My Clementine is an incredible photographer. She is pursuing a graphic arts/photography/journalism major. Her work is breathtaking. She has a series of self-portraits that are quite good. My favorite shot (and one that is gaining a considerable amount of acclaim in photography circles is titled “self-portrait”). The photo titles are all mine…she’s not the sappy, sentimental type. I am 😀

It’s been awhile since she’s posted new photos on her blog, but your welcome to take a peek here. Bless her heart, she’s working two jobs and attending college full time. It amazes me that she has any time at all to take a picture.

Here’s a bit of her work (a few of my favorites…a mother has to brag a bit, you know!)

Taking advice…

I’m a veteran homeschooler. At least I think that’s what you’d call it. In other words, I’ve been doing this for several years, have graduated more than a few students and am riddled with the battle scars that prove it.

Just kidding!

Anyway, don’t let the “veteran” part fool you. As I shared in a previous post, I’ve experienced the same ups and downs as any novice. I remain open to suggestions. I’m always looking for a better or more effective way to answer the call to homeschooling. I still slip up, make mistakes and have to retrace my steps from time to time.

Here’s an example:

I’ve been torturing my children with their math lessons. Yes, torture. You know: sighing, moaning, crying, begging for mercy…that kind of torture. Math had become the absolute worst part of the day. I tried starting the day with math, to get it over with. I tried ending the day with math, so that we could get everything else done more quickly. I placed the decision in the hands of the children. No matter what I did, we were spending approximately an hour and a half to two hours per day on math. Yes…you read the words correctly…nearly two hours working 30 problems. We’re not talking calculus or trig. Saxon Algebra 1/2, 5/4 and MCP. It was sheer agony. (Except for Gawain, who is a mathematical genius and finishes every lesson in 15 minutes or less…and his brothers hate it!)

No more! Thanks to a wake-up call from a good friend, we are back on track and the children are once again happy, even eager to do math.

How did we accomplish this little miracle? A simple kitchen timer. Operating on the principle that the best work is done early on, I established a 45 minute limit for math. Period. That includes the teaching aspect of the lesson, whether mom is teaching or the student is using the DIVE cd. The children are finishing math in record time now. Finishing. I thought, at best, that we would have partially completed lessons, but no, they are motivated by the deadline. I’ve tried deadlines before, but the visual of the timer is a powerful motivator. They want to finish. These guys simply needed a definite beginning and end. Once they can see the goal, half the battle is won.

Gawain, the “mathlete” is allowed to do math “fun” projects…generally a math game of his choice on line, while waiting for his siblings to finish. He’s still putting in his time, and is actually thrilled with the enrichment. Because we are classical homeschoolers, it’s necessary to juggle the schedule a bit. We have quite a few group subjects, so working ahead isn’t always feasible for the students that finish a bit early. If everyone is finished, we forge ahead. If the two older students finish in tandem, then we move on to Latin for them. If the younger students do, then its Prima Latina.

I’m not a big fan of rigidity. I like a bit of improvisation. Unfortunately, I had become rigid in this area, without establishing and effective time frame. By doing so, I squelched the possibility of joy in this subject, replacing it with abhorrence.

Thanks, Cecile. You are a sage, a fount of wisdom.

A kitchen timer…who knew?

A keen sense of the obvious…

image courtesy of Sew Terrific

From an open debate at on the pros and cons of home education (and yes, our writer is being just a wee bit sarcastic!):

I don’t know who these parents think they are. You would think they might leave the shaping of their children’s minds, careers and futures to trained professionals, but they insist on interfering in their offsprings’ lives every step of the way.

As if these children were actually their responsibility from birth to adulthood. Don’t they realize these are the people’s children, the state’s responsibility. As such, they must be molded by the state and educated in accordance with state requirements — no more and no less.

They must be taught to accept the same values approved and encouraged by the state. They must be taught that all are equal, regardless of ability, intelligence or talent, and therefore, all must be rewarded equally, regardless of merit, just like the public schoolteachers.

They must be taught their self esteem is more important than anything they can contribute to society. They must be taught that acting in the best interest of the collective is more important than individual liberty.

They must be taught the role of the state is to protect the individual from his own inherent stupidity, because the individual is incapable of making intelligent decisions for himself, and therefore cannot be held responsible for his actions. The state must act as parent, Big Brother, nanny.

I understand the public teachers’ union has the children’s best interest in mind. These parents have a lot of nerve, refusing to conform.

Some of the other comments are not nearly so charitable…pursue the above link at your own risk!

The advantages of having friends with good taste…

In this instance it equates four ready-to-be-devoured literary treats…

The Faithful Wife
Kristin Lavransdatter
The Betrothed
Sophia House

Frugally yours…

I love thrift stores! You never know what you will find. Over the past several months I’ve located a few real treasures: vintage mantillas (I’ve given away many of them), three Latin missals, an autographed copy of Peter Mayles’s French Lessons, fabulous hats, vintage children’s books, knitting needles and of course, clothing.

Here’s a look at today’s finds:

Three brand new dolls (with tags) from Pier 1 Imports for $1.00 each, a vintage paper back on St. Therese and a copy of Walden for .90 each–

I also found three pairs of pants and a hoodie for Gareth, a dress, shirt and jeans for Charlotte, two shirts for Gawain and a shirt for Arthur. Total expenditure? Less than $20…

It pays to be frugal!

Pope Pius XII prays the Pater Noster…

Pope Pius XII prays the Pater Noster

Stumbling around…

So…am I the last person to discover this?

Oh, the places you’ll go!  (just had to use that lil’ Seussism…)


Portrait of the Class Clown, or Why Emily Can’t Think Outside Of The Box

Semi-colon? Who uses a semi-colon?

You Are a Semi-Colon

You are elegant, understated, and subtle in your communication.
You’re very smart (and you know it), but you don’t often showcase your brilliance.
Instead, you carefully construct your arguments, ideas, and theories until they are bulletproof.
You see your words as an expression of yourself, and you are careful not to waste them.
Your friends see you as enlightened, logical, and shrewd.
(But what you’re saying often goes right over their heads.)

You excel in: The Arts

You get along best with: The Colon

“Dignity and decorum”

From Earth Times:

Mon, 25 Feb 2008 11:48:03 GMT

Rome – The Vatican is poised to introduce stricter norms on Roman Catholic mass, including halting the taking of communion in the hand and setting a time limit for homilies, an Italian newspaper reported Monday. Turin-based daily La Stampa quoted senior Vatican official, Archbishop Albert Malcolm Ranjith Patabendige Don saying the move was necessary to eliminate “extravagancies” that have crept into Mass celebrations.

Provisions include restricting to 10 minutes homilies and sermons and ensuring that they be exclusively based on the Gospel readings, said Ranjith who is Secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship.

The practice of allowing the faithful to receive Communion – the bread host which Catholics believe represents the body of Christ – in their hands would also be “urgently reviewed”, Ranjith was quoted as saying.

The Vatican wants the host “placed directly into the mouths of the faithful so they don’t touch it (with their hands)… because many don’t even realize they are receiving Christ and do this with scant concentration and respect,” Ranjith said.

The distribution of communion on the hands of those attending mass has been widespread since the so-called Vatican II Council – a series of reforms introduced in the 1960s aimed at making church celebrations more accessible to the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics.

But according to Ranjith the practice was “illegally and hastily introduced by certain elements of the Church immediately after the Council”.

“Some people keep hosts with them as a sort of souvenir, others sell them while in some cases the hosts have been taken away to be used in blasphemous Satanic rituals,” he said.

Ranjith said the measures to bring back “dignity and decorum” to mass celebrations were in line with Pope Benedict XVI’s wishes, but he did not specify when they would be introduced, nor if they would be issues as an order or a set of guidelines.

Benedict, who earned a reputation as a conservative before being elected pontiff in 2005, last year eased restrictions introduced by Vatican II on the celebration of the traditional Latin mass.

The move which has included softening a prayer for the conversion of Jews contained in the Latin liturgical text, has drawn criticism from Jewish groups who resent what they say remains a singling out of members of their faith.

Meanwhile hard-line traditionalist Catholics have expressed anger over what they say is Benedict’s tampering of the original Latin mass which they regard as sacred.

Copyright, respective author or news agency

Wrong number…

A couple of days ago I received a very strange phone call. In the midst of a conversation with a good friend, an unfamiliar number popped up on my caller ID.  So I “flashed” over to take the call…

Me: Hello?

Him: Oh! Hello? Do you remember me? It’s Matthew “X”. Is…Madge there?

Me: No sir, I believe you have the wrong number.

Him: No mam…this is the right number. It must be true then. Do you live in the “X” area?

Me: Yes sir, I do.

Him: Are you familiar with Henry’s Restaurant? It was a little place. I helped get the restaurant started with Madge…I don’t even know if it’s opened anymore. You see, I’m in a nursing home. Today, someone told me that Madge had recently passed away. It must be true…

Me: Oh, sir! I’m so sorry! I don’t have much information to offer you. We moved here a little less than a year ago, but we’ve only had this number for about three weeks.

Him: So…she’s been gone at least three weeks.

Me: I’m sorry. Is there any other way I can help you? Did she have any other friends locally that might have more information?

Him: Yes…I’m sure I can find someone else. I just wanted to try her number. I hoped it wasn’t true…

Me: I wish you success, sir. I’ll pray for her!

I wish I had told him that I’d pray for him as well! And so we have been. Every night, the family has remembered this sweet man, who lives in a nursing home and is lamenting the loss of a good friend. We’re praying for the repose of the soul of his dear friend, Madge, as well.

It never ceases to amaze me the way our Lord connects souls…Matthew and Madge need prayers…there are people who will pray for them, if only they know!

Would you take the time, dear friend, to offer a little prayer for Matthew and his deceased friend, Madge? Let’s try to remember all of our elderly who are in nursing homes, or simply left alone far too often.

On a lighter note: I “googled” Henry’s restaurant…it’s still open and is regarded as one of the best little “off the beaten path” restaurants around. Apparently, the pie is amazing. Madge had retired, after having built up quite a reputation, but her replacement seems to be managing quite well.

Fun on a Sunday afternoon

We spent the afternoon at COSI. What a blast! The children had a wonderful time, got more than a little wet, and even resorted to helping the staff clean-up in order to stay longer. We keep a year round membership to the museum…a day’s admission for a family this size costs more than an annual family membership! Thanks grandma and granddad!

Tagged for a book “meme”

Thanks for the tag, Esther!

Book Memories

1. Do you associate reading particular books with the places you read them or events of the time you read them?

Absolutely! Probably the sole reason that I simply can’t read Great Expectations. Freshman English. I didn’t hate the class, just couldn’t get into the book. I love Dickens, but I simply can’t bring myself to try this book again… alas, I’m stuck with my teenage perception of a piece of classic literature.

2. Do you remember the books you read or do they fade quickly? Or do you remember some better than others? How about remember details like character names, not just overall plot?

Stuck like glue! I can’t think of a single book that I don’t remember in detail…I tend to read and reread every book I own. And I own many…

3. Have you ever forgotten you’ve read/own a book and borrowed/bought it again?

I never forget that I’ve read a book and don’t often forget that I own one, but good heaven’s I have multiple copies of many books. And I purchase multiple copies of books intentionally. My boys tend to absolutely “wear them out.” The covers fall off, the pages are missing. I keep replacement copies just for that reason.

For this meme, I will tag:

Amy Caroline


Elena Marie

and anyone else who feels like participating!

Cookie is back!

Rejoice with us! Cookie is home, safe and sound! The entire family had decided that Cookie was probably not coming back. Dinner time was a sad affair. Gawain stood up and said, rather sadly: “I wonder where the cat is…” He walked into the kitchen, looked out the window of the back door and loudly exclaimed: “He’s here! Cookie’s back!”

The kitchen was a scene of pure jubilation, with tears and hugs and Mom scrambling to get a bowl of cat food and fresh water.

He’s sporting a nasty cut above one eye and is pretty dirty, but he’s home.

Thank you, dear friends, for the prayers! The children are so touched that our friends care enough to pray for even such a seemingly small thing…the life of a pet. It was a big thing to us. Thank you for your loving kindness!

Cookie is missing…


Cookie is missing…the entire family has been searching for him for the past two days.

The weather is absolutely dreadful–ice, snow, sleet–you name it, we have it. Could you please say a little prayer? Perhaps ask St. Francis and St. Anthony to intercede?

The children would especially appreciate it. So would I.

WordPress rocks!

Wow!   After months of never receiving a response from the Blogger team, this is what I call service!  Two emails, the last responded to within minutes,  a quick “hack” into my CSS and the problem is solved.

Thanks, WordPress!   I think I’m going to like it here…


New blog, new problems…alas my custom header has disappeared!  Waiting patiently for WordPress to figure this one out…

Once upon a time…

Here is an amazing political twist on the Emperor’s New Clothes from Red Cardigan at And Sometimes Tea:

The Candidate’s New Cloak (A Barack Obama Fairy Tale)

Once upon a time, in a land not nearly far enough away, there was a Contest to see which of several candidates would win a four-years’ stay in a certain House of White. The Contest was lengthy and protracted, and many valiant knights fell by the wayside during its fierce and daring battles. Some yet remember the names of the illustrious fallen: Rudy of the Burning City, who failed to ignite his followers into any passion; Romney the Unflappable, who famously tried to seem a Man of the People, and failed miserably; Edwards the Miller’s Son; William the Large; Fred the Sleepy-Eyed; and Duncan the Hunter were but a few of those who tried, but could not contend, and lost their way in the earliest of some verbal Jousts, which were called Debates, and which consisted of the candidates’ attempts to agree with each other in the sneakiest and most tricky of ways, so that agreement seemed like profound discord. (‘Tis true, though strange; such ways are not the ways of common men.)

As the time of the Contest, called an Election (owing, it is suspected, to the People’s profound indifference to the whole matter and their election to remain at home while the partisans of the Contest braved bad weather and dimly-lit polling stations to register their choices) drew nearer, lo, there were but a handful of candidates remaining who had not yet withdrawn their names from the ring, and who were prepared to contend mightily with each other to the final hour, or at least to their Party’s conventions. These few were McCain the Warrior, Huckabee of the South, Paul the Scholar on the one side; and Lady Hillary the Strident and Obama the Enigmatic on the other. Though it might appear that the sides were uneven, it was generally agreed that Huckabee and Paul, could they but have been combined, would make one good candidate instead of two indifferent ones; and thus the matter was accepted by both Parties.

And it came to pass that more Debates were planned, and more such minor battles, when someone whose name was not recorded, and who is therefore not important, had an idea to help the People to distinguish which among these candidates should advance to the final round of the Contest, called the General Election, though no generals were involved, and would not be elected in any case…

Read the rest of this incredible tale here.

Bread, glorious bread…

Bread bakers: check out the video at Fast Food.

I’ve baked four loaves of this delicious bread…it is comparable to the delightful rustic bread one would purchase in an authentic Parisian boulangerie.

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